Die Hard

Year: 1988
Director: John McTiernan
Producer: Joel Silver
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Gudonov, Reginald Veljohnson, Paul Gleason, Robert Davi, William Atherton

The movie that redefined action for the new millennium 12 years early, and also the movie that launched John McTiernan into the pantheon of the world's best directors, despite few of his movies getting a good reception lately. Just look at some of the shots and the power in them — not even the action sequences.

Nothing in the film makes less than an explosive statement, from the setting to the distinctive villains (with Alan Rickman stealing every scene out from under Willis' feet), the action and over the top violence and the personalities of even minor characters.

Nakatomi Plaza is the scene for the Nakatomi Corporation's Christmas party, and hard-headed, tough-nosed, cynical everyman New York cop John McClane (Willis, in the role that made him a movie star off the back of TV's Moonlighting) has flown in to join his estranged wife Holly (Bedelia), a senior executive with the company.

But some nasty party crashers have other ideas. Led by Rickman as Hans Gruber in the role that deservedly bought him to world attention – dripping with so much irony, charisma and personality you can't help but love him, a gang of Eurotrash villains burst in, round up and take the whole party hostage and begin a nerve-wracking siege. They give both their captives and the police a colourful story about being revolutionaries seeking the release of political prisoners around the world, but it's a cover for their operation to crack the vault containing millions in bonds.

But following an argument with Holly, John is holed up in a bathroom when the firing starts, and becomes (as loudmouth Ellis calls him) the 'poison pill', sneaking around the skyscraper picking off the bad guys one by one while the police dig in outside.

With Powell (Veljohnson) the only voice of reason on the outside and John's guardian angel, the clock is ticking, the explosives are set and the hunt is on between John, the gang of machine gun-toting nasties, the cops outside and even the slick FBI operatives who arrive to make a further mess of things.

With more blood and death than most world war two battles, nothing about the film is grounded in reality. But it's done with so much heart and balls it tricks you into thinking it is, and that kind of magic is what the movies are all about.

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